12/27/2012 11:12:00 AM Interstate gets CUP for 110-railcar grain terminal
by Ken Haggerty
The Randolph Township Board at its December 18 meeting unanimously approved a conditional use permit for Interstate Mills to build a truck and rail grain handling facility in the Great Western Industrial Park in the Township, just to the north of the City of Randolph.
Interstate Mills, LLC headquartered out of Owatonna, MN, is owned by the Central Valley Cooperative, also headquartered in Owatonna but with farm supply outlets in Austin, Blooming Prairie, Dundas, Dennison, Northfield, Ellendale, Hayfield, Kenyon, and West Concord.
The company said it will apply for a building permit in January or February and hopes to be open by September. The proposal includes a new railroad loop that could accommodate 110 railcars and a grain storage and handling facility on a parcel of land to the west of the existing World Food Processing facility in the Randolph industrial park. The railroad loop would extend to the west to Dickman Avenue (Dakota County Hwy. 83) but would not cross Dickman.
The project was originally discussed earlier this year to be located on farmland on the east side of Hwy. 56, across from the existing industrial park, but after discussions with the Township was redesigned for the approved location.
According to Jim Dell, Interstate Mills General Manager, the project, estimated at $21 million, would handle wet and dry corn and soybeans. The 5 million bushel storage facility would have high speed grain dumps, a bulk rail loading system, dryers, and the railroad car loop. Dell said payroll is estimated at $450,000 annually with four to six full-time positions and some part-time workers. The goal would be to eventually handle 24 million bushels a year out of the facility, or about 50 trains per year. The initial goal is realistically 17 to 19 million bushels annually, said Dell. At times, they could load three trains a week, but at other times they may go two months with no trains loaded, said Dell.
Items discussed during the permitting process were the increase in truck traffic (an estimated 450 grain trucks per day during harvest), operation of the facility for 24 hours per day during certain times of the year, and increased rail traffic through the Township and the City of Randolph.
Dell said the company will do everything it can to direct truck traffic to the facility away from residential areas on Dakota County Hwy. 88 near Lake Byllesby and in the City of Randolph. Access to the industrial park is from Hwy. 56. The industrial park hosts World Food Processing, a company that processes soybeans primarily for the Asian food market and EnviroTech, which has a facility for bulk handling of liquid salt for use in ice and dust control on roads.
Rail access will come on the south end of the parcel via the tracks that currently cross Dakota County 88 in downtown Randolph.
Randolph-Hampton Fire District Chief Jim Heiman said he had met with Interstate and Progressive Rail and felt that they would provide enough radio equipment and training so that the District can safely negotiate around rail traffic. Progressive Rail has workers follow trains during transit in a Jeep to be able to quickly break apart cars if needed, said Dave Fellon of Progressive. Fellon said trains would probably travel at about 11 mph and would be about one mile long.
Dell says the project should add value to local commodity markets. He thinks the facility will aggressively bid for grain from a 60 to 65 mile radius.
Before voting on the permit, the Township received verbal confirmation from Orin Legare of the Great Western Industrial Park ownership group that Great Western would pay for some needed road maintenance on the Township roads in the Industrial Park.
Interstate Mills will be paying for engineering and planning/zoning costs incurred by the Township related to the project.
The permit does not authorize uses for herbicides, fertilizer, fuel, feed or frack sand loading, noted Township Supervisor Butch Marthaler. Any new uses beyond grain will require an additional permit, Marthaler said.
New Randolph Mayor Bob Appelgren said he will be loud in complaints if truck traffic becomes a problem in the City.